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Preview: Nigeria vs. Central African Republic - prediction, team news, lineups
06/10/2021 11:02:25

Looking to maintain a perfect start to their World Cup qualifiers campaign, Nigeria welcome Central African Republic to the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Thursday.

The visitors, meanwhile, will be keen to upset the hosts and secure their first victory in Group C after picking up one point from their opening two games.

We say: Nigeria 2-0 Central African Republic

Nigeria are in pole position to make it out of Group C after picking up two wins from their opening two games. They boast a significantly stronger crop of players heading into the game and we predict they will maintain their 100% record in the qualifiers as they take on an out-of-sorts and inexperienced Central African Republic side.​

Match preview

Nigeria, who are Africa's finest nation in terms of participation at the World Cup, began their quest for a seventh appearance at the tournament on September 3 when they claimed a 2-0 victory over Liberia.

Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho put on a headline-grabbing performance as he hit a first-half brace to hand the Super Eagles a comfortable win in Lagos.

This followed a fine run in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, where they went unbeaten in Group L and finished at the top of the pile with 14 points from six matches.

Gernot Rohr's men were then made to work their socks off for a second consecutive victory when they saw off a resilient Cape Verde side 2-1 at the Estadio Municipal Aderito Sena four days later.

After falling behind to Dylan Tavares's 19th-minute strike, Victor Osimhen levelled the scores 10 minutes later before Kenny Rocha Santos scored an own goal in the 76th minute to turn the game around.

While the Super Eagles are without a win in any of their last nine international friendly matches, they are also unbeaten in their most recent eight competitive outings, dating back to a 2-1 loss to Togo in the WAFU Cup back in 2019.

They will fancy their chances of maintaining their 100% record in the qualifiers as they welcome an opposing side who are currently 90 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings, and have struggled to get going in the group stages.

Meanwhile, Central African Republic kicked off their hunt for a maiden appearance at the World Cup on a relatively impressive note as they held Cape Verde to a 1-1 draw on September 1.

Thirty-two-year-old forward Julio Tavares broke the deadlock in the 36th minute before Tresor Toropite struck in the 53rd minute to force a share of the spoils.

However, Les Fauves failed to build on that performance as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Liberia at the Stade de la Reunificacion five days later.

Kpah Sherman came up clutch for the Lone Stars as he scored the only goal of the game in the 86th minute to end their run of seven games without a win.

Their performance so far is in keeping with their woeful run at the AFCON qualifiers, where they finished last in Group E after picking up four points from six games.

Raoul Savoy's side have now failed to taste victory in any of their last eight games in all competitions, picking up two draws and losing six since a 2-0 win over Burundi back in November 2019.

Considering that only group winners progress into the final World Cup qualifying round, Central African Republic now face an uphill task as they find themselves at the bottom of the pile once again, level on one point with Cape Verde.

Team News

Rohr has named a strong 23-man squad for their home and away qualifying games against Central African Republic, including the likes of William Troost-Ekong, Moses Simon and former Chelsea defender Ola Aina.

The Super Eagles head into the game with a star-studded attacking unit comprising the likes of Napoli forward Victor Osimhen, Leicester City man Kelechi Iheanacho, Genk's Paul Onuachu and captain Ahmed Musa, who is two games away from a century of appearances for the national team.

Versatile 21-year-old Calvin Bassey, who turns out for Rangers in Scotland, has earned his maiden call-up to the squad following a solid start to the new Premiership season.

Taiwo Awoniyi, who has enjoyed a stellar start with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga with six goals in 10 appearances across all competitions, could also make his senior debut after replacing Terem Moffi, who trudged off the pitch injured in Lorient's clash against Clermont Foot on October 3.

Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, newly-signed Watford man Peter Etebo and Villarreal's Samuel Chukwueze are notable absentees from the Nigeria camp as they are currently recuperating from injuries sustained at club level.

Central African Republic have called up 23 players for their back-to-back encounters with the three-time African champions, including Pipinsried goalkeeper Peter Guinari and Creteil-Lusitanos forward Axel Urie.

However, they will be without the services of their biggest star Geoffrey Kondogbia, who last featured in June's friendly against Rwanda, after the Atletico Madrid defensive midfielder was omitted by Savoy.

Nigeria possible starting lineup:

Okoye; Collins, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Aina; Onyeka, Aribo, Bonke, Simon; Osimhen, Iheanacho

Central African Republic possible starting lineup:

Samola; Ngam-Ngam, Ndobe, Guinari, Yangao; Niamathe, Ndokomandji; Urie, Toropite, Damona; M'Vondo

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